By Kelsie Lawrence @uvufuture

I remember being a senior in high school when it finally hit me; in less than a year I would have to fork up some serious cash for my college tuition! My parents weren’t able help financially, so I knew it would all be up to me if I wanted to go to college. Fortunately, with a lot of help from my high school counselors, parents, and the networks at my university, I was able to find scholarships to pay for most of my tuition and housing. Scholarships do not just randomly show up on your doorstep, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to find and apply for them, opportunities will pop up.

Here are some things I learned while searching for scholarships:

  1. Get involved in something you love: Many scholarships, especially private and leadership scholarships are based on involvement. Scholarship committees like to see that you were an active participant in your high school and community. So join a club or service organization. Try your hand at theater or athletics. Participate in the science fair or an art competition. Write for the school newspaper. Just get involved with something! It will give you a valuable talking point when you are filling out scholarship applications.
  2. Hit the books: Many colleges offer academic scholarships for students with a certain GPA and ACT score, so it is important to do your best in high school! To find the requirements for these scholarships, visit a university’s website and search “scholarship grid.”
  3. Ask for help: Your high school counselors and librarians can be great resources for finding scholarships. My counselor was able to clue me in on private scholarships that were only given to students from my high school – those are pretty good odds! The librarian at my school was able to teach me how to use scholarship search engines, which leads me to my next point:
  4. Surf the web: There are a lot of websites that will help you find scholarships. One of my favorites is fastweb.com. It has users create a profile and then matches them up to scholarships that they might be eligible for. Some are local and others are open to students nation-wide. It might seem daunting, but when you consider that you might be able to get thousands of dollars for spending even just one hour each week applying, it really is worth your time! One caution: If a scholarship application asks you to pay to apply, it’s a scam.
  5. Apply for FAFSA: FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Filling it out could give you access to grants, loans, and work-study positions. What most people do not realize is that it could also qualify you for “need based” scholarships offered at each college. That means you still could receive scholarship money even if you don’t necessarily get a grant!
  6. Pay attention to scholarship deadlines: Each college or university has a scholarship deadline. For example, Utah Valley University (UVU) has a scholarship deadline of February 1st. We require students to be admitted to UVU before they can apply for scholarships which mean their application, transcripts, and ACT/SAT scores need to be received and processed at UVU before they can fill out our scholarship application. I always suggest that students get all their stuff in at least two weeks before the deadline so they have time to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Waiting until the last minute could really jeopardize your chances of receiving money.
  7. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again: Even if you don’t start college with a scholarship, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get one. Keep your grades up and get involved! Academic and Dean’s scholarships are given to students each year based off of university performance and there are also many student involvement scholarships. When I was in college, I received an academic scholarship that paid for my freshman-year tuition. After that I simply got involved in different campus organizations and was able to pay for the remaining three years with involvement and leadership scholarships. Those opportunities will not hand themselves to you, but if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a little bit and get involved, you’ll find lifetime friends, great college experiences, and maybe even some scholarship money.

Pay for college

TIP: Each college and university has hundreds of scholarships available and there are many types: academic, departmental, private, need based alumni, dean’s merit, leadership, etc. Spend some quality time looking at different university websites to determine deadlines and which scholarships you will apply for.

Kelsie is an Admissions Counselor at Utah Valley University, where she graduated with a degree in School Health Education in 2014. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, caring for the eleven plants in her office, and hanging out with her three younger sisters. Connect with her on Instagram @uvufuture.